How To Store Cake: Tips For Storage So Cakes Keep Freshness

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Cake is one of the most popular desserts of all time, and can be enjoyed as a special treat or for dessert after a meal. There are so many different varieties you can make or purchase.

Chocolate cake on a white plate.
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It's a good idea to know how to store cake unless you're going to serve the whole thing at once. If you're not hosting a birthday party and are likely to have leftovers, knowing the best way to store your cake means it should stay fresh for longer. 

So, what's your favorite kind of cake? I have too many favorites to list here, but I never get tired of tres leches cake, and I also love this easy lemon icebox cake because there's no cooking at all (so it's great for the summer!)

I don't make cakes every week, but I do love to try different types of cakes, and there is certainly no shortage of recipes to make. Perhaps you love the rich decadence of German chocolate cake, or it could be that you're more of a fruit and nut or fondant cake fan, or maybe your favorite is bundt cakes or carrot cake.

Whatever type of cake you want to store, it's important to know which storage methods work best to stop your cake from drying out.​

What is Cake?

Cake is a sweet recipe made with ingredients like flour and sugar. Eggs are another typical ingredient in cake recipes but not every cake recipe calls for them. Butter, oil, or another kind of fat is a popular addition, and then you have flavorings like chocolate, vanilla, fruit, nuts, spices, and so on. Cakes are typically baked in the oven.

​A few centuries ago, cakes were a type of sweet bread, but today there are far more types of cakes, ranging from quick and simple to lavish and elaborate. The word "cake" comes from "kaka" - the Old Norse word for cake.

The ancient Greeks made theirs with milk, nuts, eggs, and honey. Ancient Roman bakers would often add butter, honey, and eggs to their basic bread dough recipe to make a cake-like baked item. The concept of cake itself dates back some 6,000 years.

There are too many types of cake to list here, although a few of the main categories include layer cake, sponge cake, pound cake, fruit cake, flourless cake, eggless cake, buttercream cakes, coffee cake, bundt cake, loaf cakes, and many more, each offering their own flavor and texture.​

How to Choose the Best Cake

If you're purchasing an entire cake from the grocery store, the key to choosing a good one is buying the freshest cake you can find. Check the expiry dates on packaged cakes or cake slices, or ask at the baked goods counter.

If you want a homemade cake, you'll want to ensure you choose the best recipe for it. Bear in mind that cakes with perishable fillings will only keep for a couple of days while other kinds, such as fruit and nut cake or wedding cake, will keep for much longer.

Chocolate cake in a storage container.

How to Store Cake

Leftover cake is far too good to waste so it's a good idea to find out how to store it to keep it moist and fresh. You might have a whole cake that you're not planning to serve until the following day so do you refrigerate an uncut cake or not?

The following tips should help you decide how and where to keep it.

  • Keep unfrosted sponge cake or pound cake at room temperature in a cake box and out of direct sunlight, and eat within 4 days. Keep it in a dry place, as humid environments can speed up spoilage.
  • If you don't have a cake box or cake keeper, you can use a large overturned bowl instead.
  • Chocolate cake​ should be fine in an airtight container at room temperature.
  • You can also keep frosted cakes with non-perishable toppings and fillings at room temperature in a cake box.
  • Keep any cake with perishable toppings and fillings (cheesecakes, cakes with dairy-based frosting or fruit, anything with fresh cream, ganache, cream cheese, or custard) in the refrigerator.
  • Cake that has been sliced has the cut sides exposed to the air, so keep those under a glass cake cover or wrap the slices in plastic wrap or cling film to keep as much air as possible out.
  • Sheet cakes are baked in pans with a lid, so use the lid to keep them fresher for longer. If it's not tight, you can wrap the container in plastic wrap too.
  • You can freeze cooked cake layers until you're ready to add your frosting and toppings. They're easier to frost and decorate like that too. Just ensure you wrap them in plastic wrap first to avoid freezer burn.

Most cakes with non-perishable toppings should be fine for up to 4 days at room temperature, while those with buttercream frosting or other perishable toppings or fillings should stay good in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a couple of days

Store-bought cakes can last up to a week, but check the packaging to see. Most cakes can be frozen for up to 3 months, as long as you wrap them in a piece of plastic wrap followed by foil and/or a Ziploc freezer bag or airtight container.

How to Tell if Cake is Spoiled

Cake hardens as it ages, as the moisture is drawn out. You can still make use of cake which is a little stale, perhaps making a special version of bread and butter pudding or a trifle or tiramisu. But if it spoils further, it might not be good (or safe) to eat anymore. A hard interior or a crumbly, dried-out texture are indicators that the cake is past its best. A moldy appearance, bad smell, or slimy filling or frosting means you should throw it out.

Common Questions

What are the most popular cake flavors?

Although there are hundreds, if not thousands, of different cake recipes, there are a few that stand out as being the most popular. Chocolate cake, vanilla cake, lemon cake, and red velvet cake are way up there in the popularity stakes.

What can you do if you have leftover cake or extra frosting?

Leftover cake can be added to trifles, sundaes, cake pops, and other desserts composed of pieces of cake. You can add slightly stale cake cubes to Jell-O.
If you made too much frosting, you can mix it with leftover cake crumbs to make cake pops or serve it with ice cream. Store-bought frosting can last up to a month in the refrigerator, or you can freeze it for up to 3 months.

Chocolate cake wrapped with plastic wrap.

Curious Cake Facts

  • Add a white bread slice to the cake box or cake keeper when storing cake, so it will absorb moisture from the bread and stay moist for longer.
  • If you can, frost your cake before you store it since the frosting will help keep the cake moist.
  • One of the first people to have pure white icing on her wedding cake was Queen Victoria, which is how "royal icing" got its name.

Discover how to store cake so you can keep it fresh and delicious and avoid spoilage. There are hundreds of different cake recipes, each with its own shelf life, so it's best to check the packaging on store-bought cakes or read the recipe tips if you're making your own.

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